On a bright spring morning, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks walked into a manufacturing facility and assumed her most significant role to date. She didn’t simply walk into the Earth Friendly Products to begin the workday like any other day. No, that was yesterday. On this day, in April 2014, Kelly walked into the building to begin her most challenging role yet: successor and newly appointed leader of the family’s global business.
Kelly embraced the role of CEO and president of Earth Friendly Products, the producer of ECOS™ Laundry Detergent and over 200 environmentally friendly cleaners made with plant-based ingredients.
Kelly’s new position was due to her father’s sudden and unfortunate passing . Mr. Van Vlahakis, Kelly’s father, founded the company in 1967 and served as president and CEO until he unexpectedly passed away in 2014. Mr. Vlahakis groomed Kelly for the company’s leadership since she joined the family business in 2003, and he laid the foundation for the company’s next wave of leadership.
A Strong Foundation
Kelly is the first to mention how Chapman’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program equipped her with the critical skills and experiences she needed to bridge the gap between the classroom and the corporate world. Her career attests to the need for a direct correlation of applying academic concepts with a real-world
laboratory: the Earth Friendly Products company.
For Kelly, enrolling in business travel courses and subsequently exploring China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brazil were pivotal academically, professionally and personally.
“My professors at Chapman all went above and beyond the classroom setting to really support me in my professional objectives. I’m especially grateful to professors Tom Turk, Noel Murray, and the late Esmael Adibi, who all transformed my experience beyond the academics,” Kelly says.
Think Chapman First
While serving as president and CEO for the past three years, Kelly’s personal commitment to “Think Chapman First” has become evident in her company culture and leadership style. In fact, Kelly exemplifies “Think Chapman First” by employing Chapman students, interns, and alumni.
The mantra permeates the University as it is directly sewn into Chapman’s mission and brand and encourages all Panthers to consider Chapman their career connection for life.
“Think Chapman First” infiltrates the Chapman community on various levels and can be seen in President Struppa’s State of the University address; a student’s educational experience; faculty’s vision; staff members’ inspiration; employer partners’ recruitment efforts; and alumni network’s job titles.
Kelly received the Orange County Business Journal’s 2016 Women in Business award, ultimately bringing the 2016 award recipient total up to three of the five selected women holding Chapman degrees.
“The global business environment is extremely dynamic, and the learning opportunities Chapman provides are immensely valuable,” Kelly says after reflecting on her time in the graduate business program at the Argyros School.
Kelly continues to stay connected to Chapman by…
- donating thousands of bottles of ECOS laundry detergent to Chapman’s freshman fall 2016 move-in
“I’m very grateful for my experience at Chapman and enthusiastically support the Argyros School for my unparalleled educational experience,” Kelly says.
Kelly, along with the entire Earth Friendly Products team, is committed to “Think Chapman First” and strives to make homes—and dorms—safer for people, pets and the planet.